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#pounditMonday, January 24, 2022

John Paxson defends Bulls’ handling of Mirotic-Portis fight

Chicago Bulls vice president John Paxson continues to try to navigate the minefield that was laid down when two of his players fought in practice.

Paxson tried to defend himself and the team over accusations that the Bulls have thrown Nikola Mirotic under the bus for his role in a fight with Bobby Portis that severely injured Mirotic.

Word leaked publicly that the Bulls felt that Mirotic was the aggressor in the fight, and sources told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune that Mirotic’s camp is not pleased by that — nor the fact that Portis was allowed to practice during his eight-game suspension. Paxson sees it differently.

“There are always two sides,” Paxson said. “In doling out the punishment to Bobby, that’s fairly unprecedented, too, what we did. Like I told you last week, we consulted with the league to make sure we were going about it the right way. We’re confident with what we did. I’ve never been in Niko’s position where something like that happens. We are trying to understand it and work with him and his people. But we can’t just do something for the sake of doing it. It has to be in our best interest too.”

Paxson also navigated the rumors that Mirotic has more or less told the Bulls that either he or Portis must go, with the executive VP repeatedly saying that the team is trying to be “sensitive.”

“I don’t have that answer right now,” Paxson said. “Your hope is that as time goes on, there can be some communication where it gets resolved. But this is a unique situation.

“We’re supportive of Niko and what he’s going through. We support Bobby too. He’s a part of our team. You sit here in my position, (general manager Gar Forman’s) position, ownership’s position and you see it’s a distraction. But we also have to keep these young guys focused on what they’re doing. And they’re playing games right now and trying to get better every day.”

The Bulls would obviously like a say in how Mirotic and Portis’s futures with the team shake out. This situation doesn’t appear to be improving, though.

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